By Dr Joseph Mercola
Turnips are antioxidant-rich and nutrient-dense. Besides being an excellent source of vitamin C and fibre, turnips also contain a type of phytonutrient known as indoles, which may help you fight cancer – particularly colon cancer. For these and many other reasons, you may enjoy growing turnips. Below, I share everything you need to know to cultivate this hearty, healthy root vegetable.
Turnips (Brassica rapa) are members of the cruciferous family of vegetables, making them close cousins of kohlrabi and rutabagas. They are biennials grown as annuals and may go to seed in their first year if planted in early spring. Mature turnips reach a height of about 12 to 18 inches and a width of about 6 to 8 inches.
Turnips are native in the wild in western Europe, the Mediterranean and temperate regions of Asia and now are grown widely in temperate climates worldwide. The Greeks and Romans used turnips and Pliny the Elder considered them to be one of the most important vegetables of his time. Once cultivated mainly as livestock forage, turnips have been part of human diets in Europe and the U.S. for hundreds of years. The Spruce says turnips:
Growing Turnips in Five Easy Steps
Mulching your turnips will help prevent them from freezing, and the cold weather helps sweeten their flavour. Below are recommendations from gardening experts on the considerations you must entertain to ensure a healthy crop of turnips:
Terrific Turnip Types to Try
Though you may be most familiar with the white and purple turnips about the size of tennis balls that are commonly found in local markets, The Spruce suggests there are other varieties of interest, including ones that produce small, tender radish-sized roots. Below are some recommended varieties (with days to maturity):
Turnip Pests and Problems to Consider
If you routinely grow other members of the Brassica family, such as broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower, you may have had experience with one or more of the conditions known to affect turnips. According to The Spruce, turnips are subject to the following diseases and insects:
Harvesting Turnips: You Can Store Them for Winter Use
Once you get the seeds in the ground and water them regularly, you can look forward to harvesting your turnips about 45 to 50 days later. When you plant in the Autumn, you can leave turnips in the ground to harvest in the Winter if you’d like. In most cases, you’ll want to remove them before the first frost. In milder areas you may be able to keep them in the ground during Winter by covering them with a thick mulch. Here’s everything you need to know about harvesting turnips:
Summer turnips are said to be more tender than Autumn crops. Hardy Autumn varieties may last throughout the Winter when stored in a cool dry place or your refrigerator. Remove the greens first — by twisting them off and leaving a 1/2-inch stem — since they won’t last long. Another reason to detach the greens is because they will continue to draw energy and nutrients from the bulbs.
If you are fortunate to have a root cellar, turnip bulbs can easily take their place alongside beetroot, carrots and rutabagas for Wintertime storage. When storing turnips, be sure to leave the soil on the roots because it helps protect the bulbs during storage.
Ways to Use and Enjoy Tasty Turnips
Turnips are doubly appreciated because both their roots and greens are edible and nutritious. While the bitter taste of turnip greens is a turnoff to some — they have a flavour similar to mustard greens — you can blanch, braise or sauté them to reduce their bitter flavour. Before cooking or serving turnips, make sure you clean them thoroughly by scrubbing the skin with a vegetable brush under running water. Turnip roots add heartiness and beneficial nutrients to your meals. They have a mild flavour and a potato-like texture when cooked. Be sure to not overcook them since their characteristic crunch is part of what makes turnips so enjoyable. If you are not familiar with turnips and wonder how you might use them, consider the following suggestions:
• Add turnips (even older, woody ones) to casseroles, side dishes, soups and stews
• The crunch of shredded, raw turnips adds depth to coleslaw and salads; cut them into sticks and use them with your favourite healthy dip
• Try turnip sprouts: I strongly recommend growing your own sprouts because it’s easy and can radically improve your overall nutrition
• Braise or sauté turnip greens with bone broth or a healthy fat, respectively, and add spices and other ingredients of your choice
• Incorporate turnips into your fermented vegetable recipe
Nutrition Facts for Turnips
Turnips are a low-calorie vegetable — a 3.5-ounce, or 100-gram (g), serving contains just 28 calories. The root portion is also loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C, with 21 milligrams (mg) per 100 g — 35 percent of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this essential vitamin. Besides supporting your immune system, vitamin C protects your body against free-radical damage and helps your body form and maintain connective tissue such as blood vessels, bones and skin.
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needsHealth Benefits of Turnips: Why Your Body Will Be Glad You Ate Them
Below are a few of the health benefits of turnips:
Regardless of how you plan to eat them, for the health benefits alone, you won’t regret adding turnips to your vegetable garden this year. They grow quickly, require minimal care and are prolific.